Turmeric spices up virus study: New research shows curcumin stops virus cells

Aug 16, 2012 By Michele McDonald
Turmeric is often used as a spice in curry dishes. Photo by Sanjay Acharya from Wikipedia Commons

(Phys.org) -- The popular spice turmeric packs more than just flavor — it shows promise in fighting devastating viruses, Mason researchers recently discovered.

Curcumin, found in , stopped the potentially deadly virus from multiplying in infected cells, says Aarthi Narayanan, lead investigator on the new study and a research assistant professor with Mason's National Center for Biodefense and Infectious Diseases.

Mosquito-borne Rift Valley Fever virus (RVF) is an acute, fever-causing virus that affects domestic animals such as cattle, sheep and goats, as well as humans. The research appears this month in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

"Growing up in India, I was given turmeric all the time," says Narayanan, who has spent the past 18 months working on the project. "Every time my son has a throat infection, I give (turmeric) to him."

There's more work to do before curcumin-based pharmaceuticals become commonplace, Narayanan emphasizes. She plans to test 10 different versions of curcumin to determine which one works the best. She also intends to apply the research to other viruses, including HIV.

Narayanan has long wanted to explore the infection-fighting properties of turmeric, in particular its key component, curcumin. "It is often not taken seriously because it's a ," she says.

But science is transforming the spice from folk medicine to one that could help a patient's body fight off a virus because it can prevent the virus from taking over healthy cells. These "broad-spectrum inhibitors" work by defeating a wide array of viruses.

"Curcumin is, by its very nature, broad spectrum," Narayanan says. "However, in the published article, we provide evidence that curcumin may interfere with how the virus manipulates the human cell to stop the cell from responding to the infection."

Kylene Kehn-Hall, a co-investigator on the study, adds, "We are very excited about this work, as curcumin not only dramatically inhibits RVFV replication in cell culture but also demonstrates efficacy against RVFV in a mouse model."

Narayanan and her colleagues study the connection between a virus and how it impacts the host — human or animal. Symptoms clue in the researcher about the body's inner workings. Rift Valley Fever and Venezuelan Equine Encephalitis kick off with flu-like symptoms.

Symptoms can make it challenging for someone to recover. The body usually starts with an exaggerated inflammatory response because it doesn't know where to start to rid itself of the virus, she says.

"Many times, the body goes above and beyond what is necessary," Narayanan says. "And that's not good because it's going to influence a bunch of cells around the infection, which haven't seen the bug. That's one way by which disease spreads through your body. And so it is very important to control the host because a lot of times the way the host responds contributes to the disease."

Controlling the symptoms means more than simply making the patients feels better. "You're giving the antiviral a chance to work. Now an antiviral can go in and stop the bug. You're no longer trying to keep the host alive and battling the bug at the same time."

Once Narayanan knows how the body responds to a virus, it's time to go after the bug itself. She's applying this know-how to a family of viruses called Bunyaviruses, which feature Rift Valley fever, and such alphaviruses as Venezuelan equine encephalitis and retroviruses, which notably include HIV.

She delves into uncovering why and how each affects the patient. "Why are some cell types are more susceptible to one type of infection than another?" HIV goes after the immune system. Bunyaviruses will infect a wide range of cells but do maximum damage to the liver. "What is it about the liver that makes it a sitting duck compared to something like the brain?" Narayanan asks.

Ultimately, could be part of drug therapies that help defeat these viruses, Narayanan says. "I know this works. I know it works because I have seen it happen in real life," Narayanan says. "I eat it every day. I make it a point of adding it to vegetables I cook. Every single day."

Explore further: Intracellular imaging gets interactive

More information: www.jbc.org/content/early/2012… M112.356535.abstract

Related Stories

Turmeric component reduces type 2 diabetes incidence

Jul 12, 2012

(HealthDay) -- A component of turmeric -- curcumin -- reduces the incidence of type 2 diabetes and improves β-cell function in adults with prediabetes, according to a study published online July 6 in ...

Recommended for you

Protein glue shows potential for use with biomaterials

Aug 28, 2014

Researchers at the University of Milan in Italy have shown that a synthetic protein called AGMA1 has the potential to promote the adhesion of brain cells in a laboratory setting. This could prove helpful ...

User comments : 7

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Telekinetic
not rated yet Aug 17, 2012
Curcumin is showing promise as an Alzheimer's fighter. I'm seeing immediate results with someone afflicted by supplying them with an over-the-counter product called longvida, which is a highly bioavailable formulation. The progress he's making in regaining his mental clarity is very impressive.
mrlewish
not rated yet Aug 19, 2012
You know you can make stuff like that yourself for a fraction of the cost? look up turmeric tincture.
alfred_newman_5836
not rated yet Aug 20, 2012
How much do you use daily for type two diabetics?
Todecule
not rated yet Aug 20, 2012
The challenge with curcumin is preventing its metabolization before it can do any good in the body. This is especially difficult when trying to get it past the blood-brain barrier.

Longvida is a modified form of curcumin designed with this in mind (@mrlewish - unmodified curcumin by itself generally will not help with Alzheimer's).

Other promising technologies include nanoparticle delivery systems, or simply ingestion with black pepper. For further reading search for "piperine curcumin".
ziphead
1 / 5 (3) Aug 20, 2012
Turmeric is Earth's melange.
If you apply it rectally, you get to bend the spacetime ;).
XQZME
4 / 5 (2) Aug 20, 2012
Curcumin/Tumeric is a good anti-inflamatory for combating cancer. To combat cancer consume foods, juices and supplements with anti-angiogenesis, apoptosis stimulating or COX2 inhibiting or anti-inflammatory or oxygen enhancing properties. Avoid sugar, red meats lunch meat and processed meat, eggs, fat, salt and white bread.

Avoid stress including overexertion such as gym workouts or running long distances.

It worked for my stage 4 cancer.
kochevnik
3.7 / 5 (3) Aug 21, 2012
If you apply it rectally, you get to bend the spacetime ;).
Everything is black and white to conservatives, so they would agree with you there is no difference which side of the alimentary canal you employ.